Overcoming the ‘But I’m Unique’ Mentality in Chess Improvement

Last week I realized three things:

  1. Keeping things simple is the key.
  2. I have a tough time following point #1 because I think my problems are unique.
  3. I’m just like everyone else, which means they also think their problems are unique.

Basic Advice Applies to Everyone

Discussing how to improve in Poker & Chess with a professional Chess player, I said “but this doesn’t apply to my situation, because…”

He just smirked and said, “Learning to play better helps everyone”.

Boom! How right he was. Some basic improvement advice applies to everyone. Tactics are the most important part of chess improvement. Period. Improving the knowledge of GTO (game theory optimal play) helps every Poker player. Period.

Yet, when confronted with simple improvement advice, most people (me included!) tend to think “I’m different, this doesn’t apply to me”. The day following this discussion I bought a Poker training tool this Pro recommended.

Turns out:

  1. I’m much worse than I thought (another common mistake most of us make is overestimating our capabilities).
  2. What I learned immediately helped me the next time I played Poker.

Not such unique problems after all…

Simple but Powerful

A few days later I listened to an amazing interview with CEO Coach Matt Mochary. When he explained an extremely simple method to conquer fear I thought “This is way too simple for me!”.

Luckily, my bs alarms went off.

The best CEO Coach in Silicon Valley explains his refined method and I’m thinking this doesn’t fit the bill for me.

Who am I? Superman?

Funnily enough, this method likely works BECAUSE it is so simple. Especially for super busy CEOs, complex methods do not work. So probably after years of refinement, Matt came up with this simple solution. And I nearly didn’t use it myself just because I thought I was so special…

This is like someone handing you Chat GPT during an exam and you saying “I don’t trust this, let me think for myself”.

Common Ways To Say “But I’m Unique”

For a long time, I spotted this “but I’m unique” mindset in many readers and students. Turns out I’m no different! As I benefitted tremendously from this new Poker Training approach, I hope you will take away something similar for your chess training.

Here are the three most common ways of “but I’m unique” I see in Chess improvers:

“This is smart, but my opponents are so bad that…”

Basically the same thing I tried to say this Poker Pro. No need for GTO as my opponents are anyway too bad. But let me tell you: a good move is a good move!

And understanding key principles will help you make more good moves. So no matter if your opponent plays like a monkey on drugs or a GM, the best move will still be the best move. Whatever helps you find more good moves applies to every opponent.

“I don’t need a Coach”

Federer had a Coach until the end of his career. Messi, Michael Jordan & Tom Brady had one as well. Either you are the greatest human being ever alive (nice to meet you!) or you absolutely can profit from having a Coach.

You can also improve without a Coach, but having a good Coach would make the process way easier. 100%. I’m going to be completely transparent here: again, the same happened to me in Poker. I thought I was “so good at learning” that I did not need a Coach.

Certainly, I will be able to improve my game without a Coach. But having a Coach would be very beneficial. I’m just not ready to pay the money (yet).

“I don’t have time for this”

In my experience, we use this excuse to avoid tough things. We can play 500 Bullet games a week, but have absolutely no time to solve 5 Tactical exercises a day…

One of my course students has worked full-time and raised 11 kids. He still found time for chess improvement. He told me “It is not about having time, it is about making time for what you really want to do”.

I think about this whenever I think “I don’t have time for this”. The honest way to frame it would be: “I don’t want to make time for this”.

We Are All Unique With The Same Problems

Whenever you hear yourself say “but… unique…” take a moment to think. It is much more likely that your problem has been solved by hundreds, thousands, or millions before you. Listen to them and follow their advice. After all, we all are unique but have very similar problems.

Now my question to you: what is a problem you face in chess improvement? Let me know in the comments below. Or by tagging me on Twitter @NoelStuder. It is very likely I or other readers face(d) the same problem.

Let’s help each other solve similar problems we have.

I firmly believe that

anyone can improve their chess through the right mindset and training techniques.

I’m here to guide you on your journey to chess mastery.

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